Small bottles labeled “Vaccine” stickers are placed near a medical syringe in front of the words “Coronavirus COVID-19” displayed in this April 10, 2020 illustration.

Given Ruvic | Reuters

The World Health Organization warned of counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines being sold on the internet during a press conference on Friday.

“We urge all people not to buy vaccines outside of government vaccination programs. Any vaccine outside of these programs can be inferior or counterfeit and potentially cause serious harm,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.

The WHO top official said the group was also aware of reports of “criminal groups” reusing empty vaccine bottles and manipulating the supply chain for Covid vaccines.

“We urge the safe disposal or destruction of used and empty vaccine bottles to prevent them from being reused by criminal groups,” said Tedros. He urged countries and individuals to look out for suspicious vaccine sales and report them to national authorities. “The flow of information is important to identify and map global threats and protect trust in vaccines,” he said.

WHO stressed that harm from counterfeit vaccines does not reflect the safety of real vaccines.

Law enforcement agencies in the UK cataloged more than 6,000 cases of Covid-related fraud totaling £ 34.5 million (US $ 48 million) last year, the BBC reported.

Americans lost $ 382 million to fraud related to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission. More than 217,000 people have filed a Covid-related fraud report with the agency since January 2020.